I am profoundly sorry
December 11, 1998
This speech was given by President Bill Clinton to reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Friday at 4:11 p.m., just minutes before the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass its first article of impeachment.
Article I charged Clinton with "Perjury Before the Grand Jury" and was passed via a strict party line vote just after the speech, with all 21 Republicans on the Committee voting yes and all 16 Democrats voting no. The article accused Clinton of committing perjury during his August 17 testimony to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury.
Article II passed two hours later by a 20 to 17 vote charging Clinton with "Perjury in the Jones Case." A single Republican, Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, voted no.
Later in the evening, about 9:15 p.m., the Committee passed Article III charging Clinton with "Obstruction of Justice" via another party line vote of 21 to 16. The third article accused Clinton of "...an effort to delay, impede, cover up, and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Paula Jones civil rights case..."
As anyone close to me knows, for months I have been grappling with how best to reconcile myself to the American people, to acknowledge my own wrongdoing and still to maintain my focus on the work of the presidency.
Others are presenting my defense on the facts, the law and the Constitution. Nothing I can say now can add to that.
What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds.
I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame. I have been condemned by my accusers with harsh words.
And while it's hard to hear yourself called deceitful and manipulative, I remember Ben Franklin's admonition that our critics are our friends, for they do show us our faults.
Mere words cannot fully express the profound remorse I feel for what our country is going through and for what members of both parties in Congress are now forced to deal with. These past months have been a torturous process of coming to terms with what I did. I understand that accountability demands consequences, and I'm prepared to accept them.
Painful as the condemnation of the Congress would be, it would pale in comparison to the consequences of the pain I have caused my family. There is no greater agony.
Like anyone who honestly faces the shame of wrongful conduct, I would give anything to go back and undo what I did.
But one of the painful truths I have to live with is the reality that that is simply not possible. An old and dear friend of mine recently sent me the wisdom of a poet who wrote, "The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line. Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.''
So nothing, not piety, nor tears, nor wit, nor torment can alter what I have done. I must make my peace with that.
I must also be at peace with the fact that the public consequences of my actions are in the hands of the American people and their representatives in the Congress.
Should they determine that my errors of word and deed require their rebuke and censure, I am ready to accept that.
Meanwhile, I will continue to do all I can to reclaim the trust of the American people and to serve them well.
We must all return to the work, the vital work, of strengthening our nation for the new century. Our country has wonderful opportunities and daunting challenges ahead. I intend to seize those opportunities and meet those challenges with all the energy and ability and strength God has given me.
That is simply all I can do -- the work of the American people.
Thank you very much.
President Bill Clinton - December 11, 1998
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